It's a Tablet Running a Touch OS

At the heart, er surface, the iPad is a tablet computer. This has been tried before and usually met with very little success. The problems were three fold: hardware, form factor and UI.

What sets the iPad apart from those that came before it is that it finally has the right combination of all three. The hardware is powerful enough to run the OS quickly while maintaining good battery life, the form factor is thin and light enough to be portable and the UI is tailored to the device.

The latter is especially important. Where Microsoft has failed in the past with both its approach to smartphones and tablets is in its attempt to scale down a desktop OS. As we've seen countless times, the only way to design for a different segment is to start from the ground up. Microsoft itself learned this with the Media Center Edition UI on top of Windows.

Since this isn't the 1980s, the iPad only has four physical buttons on the device. At the top you have a power/lock button, on the right you have a rotation lock switch (keeps the desktop from rotating) and volume rocker, and then at the lower part of the face of the unit there's a home button. If this seems familiar it's because this is the exact hardware layout of the iPhone, just on a larger scale.

The vast majority of your interface to the iPad takes place via it's 9.7" capacitive touchscreen display.

Along the bottom edge of the iPad you'll find Apple's standard 30-pin dock connector. You can use existing iPod Touch/iPhone USB cables, however this is a much more power hungry device and thus you can't charge off of a standard USB port (more on this later).

For your charging needs Apple supplies a single 10W power adapter, which looks a lot like the power adapters for the first iPhones.

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  • TGressus - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    "I don't think anything anyone can write can convince you"

    That's a tough sell right there :( Nothing against your post.

    This is the challenge all tablets have faced so far. That said, if anyone has the ability to succeed in this form factor it's the iCult.
    Reply
  • Mike1111 - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    "While I realize that Atom hasn't been suited for such an application until now, there's no reason Apple should've picked the A4 over Moorestown. "

    I really think it was the right decision for Apple to go with ARM for the iPad, and that it's the right decision to stick with ARM for at least the next few years.

    (1) Mobile version of Moorestown is not available yet, the netbook one draws too much power
    (2) Apple has to use ARM in it's iPhone and iPod touch for the next few years, so for cross-device OS, app and SoC compatibility and development ARM was the right choice for the iPad (e.g. if Apple makes safari use the hardware better on the iPad, the iPhone and iPod touch will directly profit from it too)
    (3) Moorestown would have been more expensive
    (4) With ARM Apple can control and modify the CPU design as needed, they have total control. And Apple likes that.
    (5a) There is a clear upgrade path for ARM with the Cortex-A9 and a multi-core version of it.
    (5b) The A4 is already fast enough for most people and most iPad tasks (how many reviews mention that the iPad is unpleasantly slow, even for the average consumer?)

    It's a real possibility that an iPad with a more optimized OS and safari, a better utilized (and more programmable) GPU (like the SGX545 with OpenCL etc.) and a dual-core Cortex-A9 @1.x GHz will improve the browsing performance beyond that of a netbook. And IF APPLE SAW THE NEED FOR IT (but I don't think they do), it could happen as early as next year (other ARM SoCs like Tegra2, OMAP4 and the dual-core Snapdragon will be available by then with comparable specs, so Apple should be able to pull it off too). Intel's Atom will still be a more power consuming, more expensive and way bigger multi-chip system early next year. And beyond that are ARM quad-core CPUs and dual-core GPUs...

    It will take Atom at least 4 years to overtake ARM, in the areas that count for dedicated smartphones/slates/tablets, if at all. At some point, real life browsing will just be fast enough on an ARM slate and Intel netbook, so that 99% don't care about browsing speed as a feature anymore (like it will happen with video thanks to all these powerful but small dedicated decoders/encoders like IMG's VXD/VXE).
    Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    are you saying that there is no clear upgrade path for intel's moorstown line?
    and that apple has complete control over the future of ARM?
    i didn't know they had already gone that far.
    i seem to remember apple fumbling out of the power series of CPUs and crawling into into intel's arms when they realized it was the way to go.
    there is nothing to prevent apple from switching to moorstown in a couple of generations, and they have proven that they are willing to make those kind of changes when the situation demands it.
    Reply
  • Mike1111 - Friday, April 09, 2010 - link

    "are you saying that there is no clear upgrade path for intel's moorstown line?"
    Of course not. I'm just saying that even if you think the ARM Cortex-A8 used in the iPad is not powerful enough, that there are clear CPU upgrades coming your way for years to come (higher frequencies, Cortex-A9, dual-core Cortex-A9, quad-core Cortex-A9). It's not like Apple is using a quad-core Cortex-A9 @ 4 GHz in 22nm right now, with no better ARM architecture on the horizon and standard lithography reaching a dead end...

    "and that apple has complete control over the future of ARM? i didn't know they had already gone that far."
    Sorry, what I meant was that Apple has complete control over how they implement the ARMv7 architecture in a chip (since Apple has most likely an architecture license like Qualcomm).

    "there is nothing to prevent apple from switching to moorstown in a couple of generations, and they have proven that they are willing to make those kind of changes when the situation demands it."
    I agree that Apple can and most likely will switch to Intel if their chips are clearly superior in all the ways that matter for a mobile product. I just think that's at least 4-5 years out for retail devices so there's no point in talking about how Apple should have used Moorestown for this year's iPad... or any iPad for that matter. I don't even think that Moorestown's successor will be ready (Medfield). Maybe Medfield's successor's successor in 22nm will be clearly superior (although parity could be reached a generation earlier). We'll see.
    Reply
  • MadAd - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    Its huge. Way too big for car centre consoles. If they cut it in half, so its mid way between that and an Iphone then I would definitely want to upgrade my existing car PC.

    Its got all the right airs and graces to be a super satnav/speedcam/music/incar wifi unit, just need to cut the size and sell it with some kind of some kind of quick release device for power and cabling (or ill fabricate one) and its a winner.
    Reply
  • teng029 - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    "Companies like Crestron and AMX supply ridiculously poor touch screen interfaces to their very expensive home automation installations."

    How exactly did you come to this conclusion? Have you extensively either used or program a control system touch panel?
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    Used, but not programmed. Those touchscreen controllers are just not in the same league in terms of UI as the iPad/iPhone honestly. I haven't used the latest incarnations but from the looks of them, they haven't changed tremendously.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • athreya - Thursday, April 08, 2010 - link

    1. Does writepad (phatware) or sketchbook pro (autodesk) allow one to take handwritten notes on the ipad? As in, im not looking for handwriting conversion to pages or word but can notes be taken and emailed across in the body of say a gmail or a Mail message? WHich stylus is the best for the ipad?

    2. How do you think iphone os 4.0 will solve the multitasking problem?

    3. Between the wireless keyboard and the keyboard with dock which would you recommend and why? Will ANY BT keyboard work with the ipad?

    4. Can you tell us how good it is at projecting powerpoint ppts onto a standard VGA projector? Does it support Office for Mac yet?

    thanks a lot Anand. Terrific balanced review as always.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Friday, April 09, 2010 - link

    I doubt any stylus works with the iPad, due to the capacitive screen. Reply
  • dagamer34 - Friday, April 09, 2010 - link

    A capacitive stylus would work. Reply

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